Planet of Adventure

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Not to be confused with Planets of Adventure, a 1949 collection of science fiction short stories by Basil Wells.

Planet of Adventure is the name given to a series of four science fiction novels by Jack Vance, which relate the adventures of Adam Reith, the sole survivor of an Earth ship investigating a signal from the distant planet Tschai.

Setting[edit]

UK Grafton cover

In the novels, Tschai is a planet orbiting the star Carina 4269, 212 light-years from Earth. It is populated by three alien, mutually hostile species; the displaced, native Pnume; and various human races, some of whom live as slaves or clients of the aliens. Each of the four novels relates Reith's adventures with one of the species, and is named after that species. In order, the books are:

Tschai Inhabitants (Alien & Human)[edit]

Chasch[edit]

The somewhat reptilian Chasch arrived a hundred thousand years prior to the tale's start, and are divided into three warring factions, the decadent Old Chasch, the Blue Chasch, and the barbarian Green Chasch.

Dirdir[edit]

The birdlike predatory Dirdir are comparatively recent arrivals and had warred with the Wankh in the past, but subsided into an uneasy peace due to their relative military parity.

Humans[edit]

Adam Reith, a baseline human and the sole survivor of an Earth ship investigating a signal from the distant planet Tschai.

Human Descendants[edit]

The human client races, the Pnumekin, Chaschmen, Dirdirmen and Wankhmen resemble their alien patrons to some degree, due to selective breeding, surgery and the desire of the humans to emulate their respective masters. The Pnumekin are kept docile by drugs; the Gzhindra are ostracised and exiled Pnumekin who act as agents for the Pnume. The religious fiction that their dead are reborn as Chasch keeps the Chaschmen obedient. The Dirdirmen view themselves as degenerate Dirdir and strive to minimize their differences. The Wankhmen, on the other hand, act as the sole interpreters of the Wankh and as a result, are able to manipulate the alien race to their own advantage. Vance's depiction of the human race after tens of thousands of years on Tschai aims to show how foreign humanity can become in alien surroundings.

Pnume[edit]

The insect-like Pnume are the original inhabitants of Tschai. Their history goes back ten million years and they view the invaders as welcome additions to the pageantry on their world stage. They were forced underground by the coming of the more powerful species.

Phung[edit]

Related to the Pnume are the Phung, solitary sentient predators with bizarre habits.

Wankh (or Wannek)[edit]

The amphibious Wankh (or Wannek) are comparatively recent arrivals and had warred with the Dirdir in the past, but subsided into an uneasy peace due to their relative military parity.

Plot[edit]

Adam Reith is sent with another scout in a small ship to investigate a distress signal sent centuries before from the previously unknown planet. The mother ship is destroyed and the rest of the crew killed in a surprise missile attack. The two survivors are forced to set down on Tschai and soon enough, Reith is alone. The four books describe the attempts of a man of singularly strong will and resource to return to Earth. He overcomes the obstacles of dealing with four different alien races and various human groups in his efforts. In the process, he profoundly disrupts several of the societies, human and alien, with which he is forced to deal.

Reith acquires two faithful human companions in the course of his travels: Traz Onmale, the dour, proud boy-chieftain of a nomad race obsessed with emblems, and the renegade Dirdirman, Ankhe at Afram Anacho, loquacious, fastidious and flamboyant. (Vance has said that the novels were commissioned as a juvenile series, which was why he included Traz; but the action is no less ‘adult’ than in his other works.) The third novel also introduces a villain in the enormously fat, petulant, pedophilic, shamelessly avaricious contractor Aila Woudiver.

The vast teeming planet with its clashing civilizations and multifarious cultures affects Reith to the point that he realizes that if he succeeds in returning to Earth, his life will seem dull and colourless in comparison.

Title changes[edit]

The editors of the Vance Integral Edition restored the author's preferred title for the first book: The Chasch. They also altered the second to The Wannek and replaced 'Wankh' with 'Wannek' throughout the text. Vance was convinced to change the name after learning of the meaning of the word 'wank' in British and Commonwealth slang.

Roleplaying game[edit]

The Planet of Adventure setting and characters have also been translated into the form of a paper-and-pencil Roleplaying Game in the GURPS system. GURPS: Jack Vance's Planet of Adventure was first published in September, 2003, and was written by James L. Cambias. [1]

Comics adaptation[edit]

There is a French comic adaptation in 8 volumes of the books by Li-An (drawings) and Jean-David Morvan (story), published by Delcourt from 1998 to 2008.[2]

References[edit]